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Does Quantum Mechanics Make Sense?

Some relatively simple concepts show why the answer is yes.

Size
Classical Mechanics

Relative

Quantum Mechanics

Absolute

What does relative vs. absolute size mean?


Why does it matter?

Classical Mechanics
Excellent for:

bridges
airplanes
the motion of baseballs

Size is relative.
Tell whether something is big or small
by comparing it to something else.
Rocks come in
all sizes.

Comparison
determines if
a rock is
big or small.

Why does the definition of size matter?


To observe something, must interact with it.
Always true - in classical mechanics
in quantum mechanics

Light hits flower, "bounces off."


Detect (observe) with eye, camera, etc.

Definition of Big and Small


(Same for classical mechanics and quantum mechanics.)
Disturbance caused by observation (measurement)
negligible
object big
non-negligible
object small
Classical Mechanics
Assume: when making an observation
can always find a way to make a negligible disturbance.
Can always make object big.
Do wrong experiment
Do right experiment
Observe wall with light
Observe wall with bowling balls

object small.
object big.
big.
small.

Classical, systems evolve with causality.


a rock
t=0
x - position
p - momentum

t = t'
observe

observe

Make observation of trajectory. Predict future location.

?
a rock
t=0
x position
p momentum
predict

t = t'

bird

?
?

observe

bird rock
scattering event

?
?

Following non-negligible disturbance don't know outcome.


Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

Quantum Mechanics
Size is absolute.
Quantum Mechanics is fundamentally different
from classical mechanics in the way it treats size.
Absolute Meaning of Size
Assume:

"There is a limit to the fineness of our


powers of observation and the smallness of
the accompanying disturbance, a limit which
is inherent in the nature of things and can
never be surpassed by improved technique
or increased skill on the part of the observer."
Dirac

Quantum Mechanics
Big object unavoidable limiting disturbance is negligible.
Small object unavoidable limiting disturbance is not negligible.
Object is small in an absolute sense.
No improvement in experimental technique
will make the disturbance negligible.

Classical mechanics not set up to describe objects that are


small in an absolute sense.

Q. M. Observation of an Absolutely small system.

t=0

photon

?
?

an electron

observe
t = t'

predict

?
?

Photon Electron scattering. Non-negligible disturbance.


Cant predict trajectory after observation.
Causality is assumed to apply to undisturbed systems.
You can tell what a system is doing as long as you dont observe it.
Indeterminacy comes in calculation of observables.
Act of observation destroys causality.
Theory gives probability of obtaining a particular result.
Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

What is the nature of the disturbance that accompanies an observation


on a system that is small in the absolute sense?
The explanation gets a little tricky.
To illustrate, first need to talk about waves and their interference.
There are many types of waves.
water waves
sound waves
electro-magnetic waves
QM probability amplitude waves

Waves oscillate positive and negative and travel

Waves can be added.


+

in phase (0)

constructive interference
amplitude doubled

out of phase (180)

destructive interference
amplitude zero

Interference of light described classically by in terms of light waves


(Maxwells Equations).
end mirror
50% beam splitting mirror

light wave
incoming beam

end mirror

overlap region

interference pattern
I
x

Beams cross at angle in overlap region.


Regions of constructive interference.
Regions of destructive interference.

Intensity oscillates
along x direction.
Detect with film or
digital camera.

Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

Photo-electric Effect Classical Theory Light is a wave.


electrons

e
e

light
metal

Shine light of one color on metal


electrons come out with a certain speed.
Increase light intensity
get more electrons out with identical speed.

Low Intensity - Small Wave

High Intensity - Big Wave

Light wave hits electron


gently. Electrons slow.

Light wave hits electron


hard. Electrons fast.

Copyright - Michael D. Fayer, 2004

Einstein explains the photoelectric effect (1905)


Light is composed of small particles photons.
increase
intensity
photon in

electron out

One photon hits one electron.

metal

Increase intensity more photons,


more electrons hit more come out.
Each photon hits an electron with same impact
whether there are many or few.
Therefore, electrons come out with same speed
independent of the intensity.
Copyright - Michael D. Fayer, 2004

end mirror
50% beam splitting mirror
incoming beam of photons
end mirror
interference pattern

x
overlap region

I
x

Intensity oscillates
along x direction.

Initial idea:
Classical E&M tried to modify description in terms of photons.
Photons enter interferometer. At beam splitter, half go into one leg, half
go into the other leg.
They come together and interfere.

Many problems with this description.


Example: interference pattern unchanged when light intensity approaches zero.
Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

end mirror
50% beam splitting mirror

photon
incoming beam

end mirror

overlap region

interference pattern
I
x

Explanation:

Intensity oscillates
along x direction.

each single photon goes into both legs of the apparatus.


Photons are composed of probability amplitude waves,
not physical waves.
Make measurement of location in either leg,
interference pattern vanishes.

Interference of photons: photon as waves probability amplitude waves


Photoelectric effect:
photons as particles
Need to know about the nature of the probability amplitude waves,
how they combine, and what happens when you make a measurement.

State of definite momentum p for a free particle.


A free particle, a photon, an electron, a rock, is the simplest system.
A free particle is a particle moving without any forces acting on it,
no electric or magnetic fields, no gravity, etc.
Photon with perfectly defined momentum p, (momentum eigenstate) has a
wavelength of its probability amplitude wave; so does an electron (de Broglie).

p h/

- wavelength; h Planck's constant (6.6 10-34 J-s)

What is the particle's location in space?

real

imaginary

Not localized
Spread out over all space.
Equal probability of finding particle from to .
Know momentum exactly
No knowledge of position.
Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

Classical can know momentum p and position x exactly at the same time.
Quantum know p exactly, x completely uncertain. Equal probability of
finding particle anywhere.
What about Einsteins photons that are particles and electrons that are particles,
but they both have momenta that are delocalized probability waves?
Waves of different
wavelengths can be
added. Add 5 waves.
1.2, 1.1, 1.0, 0.9, 0.8
4
2

Superposition
Sum of the 5 waves

-20

-10

10

20

-2
-4

Superimposing 5 waves concentrates probability in a region of space,


but now there are 5 values of the momentum.
Copyright Michael D. Fayer, 2004

p0

What is the spatial


distribution of the
wave packet with
width, p?

probability of x

probability of p

Wave Packets add many momentum probability waves together.


Photons and electrons are superpositions of a vast number of
momentum eigenstates each with momentum definite p.
The superposition is about some average value, p0.
x0 average
value of x
x

Added many waves.


Have spread in p, p.

Packet not spread out over all space


like a single momentum eigenstate.
More or less localized with width, x .

In a measurement, will measure


one particular value of p.

In a measurement, will measure


one particular value of x.

The disturbance accompanying


a measurement takes system from
superposition state into
a momentum eigenstate with a
particular value of the observable, p.

The disturbance accompanying


a measurement takes system from
superposition state into
a position eigenstate with a
particular value of the observable, x.

small spread in x.
probability of x

probability of p

large spread in p

x
large spread in x.

probability of x

probability of p

small spread in p

You can know the momentum and position more or less.


The more well defined one is the less well defined the other is.
QM Complementarity can know p or x, but not both at the same time.
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle - p x h/4.
Classical Mechanics can know p and x.
Quantum Mechanics can know p or x (absolute size).

Wave packets act as particles or waves depending on the measurement.


Light photon wave packet, superposition of many p states with wavelengths, .
Photons act like particles
electron out

photon in

Photoelectric effect
photon acts like particle
metal

Photons act like waves color separation by diffraction


incoming
light

normal

diffraction
grating

incoming
light

Look in one direction


see one color.

d outgoing light
separated
into colors

out going
waves

Peaks line up.


Constructive interference.

Electrons are wave packets too, as are all other non-zero rest mass particle.
Electrons act like particles.
cathode

control electrons aimed


grid

CRT
ecathode ray tube
TVs and
+
computer monitors filament
electrons
boil off

electrons
hit screen

screen

acceleration
grid

Electrons act like waves.


in coming
electrons

Low Energy
Electron Diffraction

crystal
surface

LEED diffraction
pattern

out going
waves
Peaks line up.
Constructive interference.

Copyright - Michael D. Fayer, 2005

Observing Photon Wave Packets


Worldsof shortest
Co-Linear Autocorrelation
3.7m Pulse mid-infrared optical pulses
1.1

40 fs FWHM
Gaussian fit

0.7
0.5
0.3

368 cm-1 FWHM


Gaussian Fit

0.9

Intensity (Arb. Units)

Intensity (Arb. Units)

0.9

collinear
autocorrelation

1.1

0.7

0.5

p/h
0.3

0.1
0.1

-0.1
-0.3
-0.2

-0.1

0
Delay Time (ps)

0.1

0.2

-0.1
1850

2175

2500
frequency (cm -1)

p h /

2825

1 p/h

t 40 fs = 40 10-15 s
x c t

p 2.4 1029 kg-m/s

x 1.2 105 m 12 m

p0 1.7 1028 kg-m/s

3150

Example electrons exhibit wave-like properties, baseballs dont. Why?


Electron

h
h 6.6 10 34 J-s
p
p mv
v 5.0 106 m/s

me 9.1 1031 kg

typical velocity of an electron in an atom


o
6.6 1034
10

1.5 10 m =1.5 A
31
6
9.1 10 5.0 10

De Broglie wavelength for an electron in an atom = 1.5 , the size of an atom.


Wave characteristics important wavelength size of object.
Baseball

1.1 10

m = 200 g
34

m =1.110

v = 30 m/s
-24

The wavelength is 18 orders of magnitude smaller than the size of a single nucleus.
Wavelength negligible compared to size of object. Undetectable.
Copyright - Michael D. Fayer, 2005

These are the basic concepts of Quantum Mechanics


Absolute Size
Superposition Principle
Complementarity
Quantum mechanics is necessary to describe systems on the size scale of
Molecules, Atoms, and smaller.
QM also has fundamental impacts on aspects of the universe on all size scales
as you are about to see.

This presentation can be obtained on my web site


http://www.stanford.edu/group/fayer
or Google Fayer